My secondary school nickname was Rara (amongst other things). I’ve never been sure how Rara came about as Ryan Varga-Clark lends itself to many things, Ry, RyRy, V-C and others, but no obvious link to Rara. I’m not particularly ‘ra’ either (although I’ve been told I sound it, but blame a failed acting career for that). So when I was invited to Rara, a Nepalese restaurant in Kew Gardens, despite the distance from my now native East London, I simply had to visit to see if my (sort of) namesake was up to standard.
Kew’s not a bad place either. More middle class than most , it’s almost as if when you arrive at the train station they’ve turned the street lights down to make it feel more smart (or the council is hiding something). Vaguely reminiscent of what London would have been like pre 1940, Kew is the sort of place that many of us wouldn’t think of going to unless we were going to the gardens (which is well worth a visit). But you should be going, if not for the Nepalese then at least for Pether’s of Kew, the butcher which probably sells London’s best sausage roll and is well known for its pies.
But enough of that, we went on this occasion for Nepalese. And Indian (we knew that is was too good to be true when we thought it was only Nepalese). The restaurant is tiny on appearance, but hides some larger dining areas at the back and downstairs and is bright and light, with a lot of white linen. The proximity of the tables to each other didn’t deter us either as there are a few where you wouldn’t want to have conversations too intimate for fear of local eavesdroppers, of which there were many (it is a local restaurant, after all). Now here’s the big surprise, it’s really very good. I frequent a lot of Indian restaurants as my office is in Brick Lane and I’ve become all too familiar with the ghee (clarified butter) heavy & bland dishes churned out to customers more interested in the beer than the biryani. Rara doesn’t do that. Whilst it’s not high on heat as the locals apparently aren’t the vindaloo sort, it delivers on delicate spices and fantastic ingredients. A King Prawn Dhansak (we think it was Tiger Prawn due to the exceptional size), served with light blended Coconut and Lentil curry, was not cheap (£14.75) but worlds away from any prawn curry I’ve had in years. Other mains range from traditional curries through to more adventurous fish dishes. Our starter of Pahari Peero Lamb delivered a good dry and spicy kick with tender, delicate chunks of lamb. And if the quality of our selection runs throughout the menu we think it would be hard to find a dud – the chef certainly knows who they are cooking for and what they expect.
If you like a chilli or two, don’t expect the hottest curry in town but do go for great ingredients, a standard worthy of the setting and one that ‘curry houses’ should be following. I just wish it was closer to my office.Written by Ryan Varga-Clark